The San Mateo County Historical Association is recruiting volunteers to serve as docents and assistant site managers at the Sanchez Adobe historical site at 1000 Linda Mar Blvd.

Visitors are expected to increase now that the new 3,000-square-foot interpretive center is open. The educational program will expand, as well, with more school groups coming to the historic site.

Few places in California feature the first three periods of the state’s history better than Sanchez Adobe. Indigenous people had a village there and the Spanish built an important agricultural outpost on the site. When California passed from Spanish to Mexican rule, the site was owned by one of the most influential families in the area.

New volunteers will work with veteran docents and historical association staff. Weekend recruits will greet the public and help visitors understand the site. Weekday recruits will assist with the very popular hands-on interactive program for schools. Students make adobe bricks, learn how to rope cattle, grind corn and make candles.

New classrooms will accommodate two school groups a day, but only if the historical society can recruit more volunteers, who will learn a lot about California history.

The site has an Ohlone Indian village, a Spanish agricultural outpost and a rancho home.

One of the promises of the Mexican Revolution was to secularize areas formerly ruled by officials of the Catholic Church. Large land grants were awarded to former soldiers and favored political allies of the California governors during the Mexican era. One of the most influential was Jose Sanchez who had come to California with the first Spanish settlers in 1776.

His son Francisco received 9,000 acres of Rancho San Pedro, essentially all of today’s Pacifica in 1839. He finished construction on his adobe home near the site of the old mission outpost in 1846.

San Mateo County leaders chose to preserve Sanchez Adobe in part because of Francisco Sanchez’s importance as a historical figure. He served as a commander at the Presidio and mayor of Yerba Buena, later San Francisco. He led his fellow Californios against American marines at the Battle of Santa Clara in 1847. After statehood, he became a San Francisco county supervisor. When he died in 1862 due to falling off his horse, he was acknowledged as one of the wealthiest people on the Peninsula.

The new interpretive center has an entryway with a timeline showing the three periods of California history and what was happening at the site, a map showing the Peninsula during those times, and video.

The east wall shows traditional Ohlone daily life. It includes an exhibit case with traditional Ohlone artifacts, an Ohlone feather cape and headdress made for the exhibit by a member of the Ohlone community. The northeast corner shows Portola’s discovery of San Francisco Bay in a mural depicting the expedition at Sweeney Ridge and a graphic panel on Portola’s route.

The center wall reveals Mission San Francisco de Asis, founded in 1776, artifacts and an audio contrasting Ohlone and mission people. Another wall gives the story of the agricultural outpost. Exhibits include a mural and cases showing a model of the outpost and a flipbook on crops grown.

The west wall shows the time of Francisco Sanchez, from 1839 to 1862, including a mural, which is an enlargement of the oldest known painting in the house, needlepoint, and a model of the house. The northwest corner shows the Battle of Santa Clara.

To sign up to become a volunteer at Sanchez Adobe historic site, go to or call (650)299-0104 and ask for the education department. 

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